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Joint Command Readiness: Requirements and Concerns
Prepared statement of ADM William A. Owens, USN, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, The Readiness Subcommittee, House National Security Committee, Thursday, March 09, 1995

As the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified in his posture statement before you last month, our military is ready to fight and win as called for in the National Security Strategy. Our readiness is due in large measure to the outstanding caliber of the men and women in our armed forces. You know how admirably they have performed in recent deployments to Haiti, Rwanda, the Persian Gulf, Somalia and around the world. They remain our greatest asset.

The readiness of our "first-to-fight" forces to execute the requirement of two major regional contingencies occurring nearly simultaneously remains high, while the readiness of the overall force is stable at levels near those of the last 10 years.

The continued readiness of our forces to meet this strategy depends on adequate and stable funding of our readiness accounts; commitment to a quality force; investments in force enhancements and modernization; and rapid restoration of funds and war reserve material resources expended for unplanned contingency operations.

Some segments of our capabilities were vigorously challenged in 1994. Several contingency operations erupting at the same time disrupted the operations and maintenance funding plans of the services. Our requirement to respond to events in Haiti, Korea, Rwanda and Cuba occurred later in the fiscal year, when there was little flexibility remaining in the O&M [operations and maintenance] accounts. These contingencies stretched our capacity to meet the requirements placed upon us and still have the funds and time to train our people and maintain our equipment.

The impact of unplanned contingencies on our budget cannot be overstated. In fiscal year 1991 we spent about $600 million on contingency operations from an annual budget of $276 billion. In fiscal year 1995 we expect the unbudgeted costs of contingencies to be about $2.5 billion out of a DoD budget of $252 billion. This equates to a four-fold increase in contingency costs while the DoD budget has been steadily decreasing. It is not possible to absorb these costs without disastrous impacts on our programs, which are already stretched as a result of the overall budget decrease.

With final approval of the supplemental we expect to be able to recover and maintain our current readiness at acceptable levels. To help prevent a recurrence of the problems we encountered in 1994 as a result of the way we now obligate operations and maintenance funds for contingencies, Secretary [of Defense William J.] Perry has asked Congress to establish a readiness preservation authority. This authority will allow the department to maintain readiness while mitigating the impact of funding contingency operations that occur late in the fiscal year.

The cost of participating in a number of unprogramed contingencies goes far beyond dollars, however. The impact of the current high pace of operations is training opportunities lost, equipment not maintained and quality of life impacted for the service members as well as the families that are left behind when the unit is deployed.

As we continue to react to unplanned contingencies around the world, we must carefully assess and track the fiscal impacts of these contingencies and on the readiness of our units and not forget that there is a quality of life impact as well.

You have asked me to discuss with you today the process that we use to measure the readiness of our forces. The key to understanding our readiness assessment process is to first understand our definition of readiness.

Readiness of U.S. military forces to fight and meet the demands of our military strategy is the synthesis of two distinct but interrelated levels of readiness: unit readiness and joint readiness.

Unit readiness is the ability to provide capabilities required by the CinCs [commanders in chief] to execute their assigned missions. This is derived from the ability of each unit of each of the services to deliver the outputs for which it was designed.

Joint readiness is the CinC s ability to integrate and synchronize ready combat and support forces to execute his assigned missions.

These definitions are key because they delineate the responsibilities of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the chiefs of the services and the CinCs in readiness assessment.

Today the joint chiefs, the services and the war-fighting CinCs are monitoring and assessing our readiness posture more closely than at any time in recent memory.

In the past we relied heavily on the services reporting of SORTS information, the Status of Resources and Training System. The product of SORTS is a numerical "C-rating" that you may be familiar with -- for example, in the C-ratings of the three Army divisions that was widely discussed in the press late last year. Though some equate SORTS C-ratings with readiness, in fact SORTS is not a comprehensive readiness measurement system.

What SORTS provides is a current snapshot on a select slice of readiness information in three critical unit resource areas: personnel, critical equipment fill and its state of maintenance, and the unit commander's assessment of his training preparedness to meet his primary combat mission.

There are many things that SORTS does not directly measure. SORTS does not measure quality of life issues, impact of funding and policy decisions, impending equipment changes and modernization, ability to perform special or nonstandard missions, and participation in joint and combined exercises. SORTS does not measure future readiness; it is not predictive.

It is fair to say that a unit that has a high C-rating in SORTS may not be ready for a particular peacekeeping, humanitarian or other mission that is different from its primary mission. But a low rating in any of the SORTS rated areas is a warning flag that the unit may have difficulties meeting the primary combat mission for which it was designed.

To look beyond the traditional snapshot that SORTS provides the operations deputies of the services and I conduct a Joint Monthly Readiness Review to assess our current joint readiness. The Joint Monthly Readiness Review, which we call the JMRR, is a recurring readiness process to review the status of unit and joint readiness.

The purpose of the JMRR is to identify and analyze critical deficiencies that may reduce or preclude a CinC's performance of assigned missions and to propose solutions for the deficiencies discovered.

In the JMRR the services describe current force commitments around the world and the current and projected level of readiness of their units. We ask the services to project their readiness to a six- and 12-month outlook, recognizing that with the rapid pace of world events and our requirement to participate in them on short notice, such projections are necessarily subjective. Significant service readiness trends are highlighted at each brief.

The JMRR also includes each CinC's assessment of his ability to integrate and synchronize forces provided by the services to execute his current and projected requirements. The CinCs assess eight joint war-fighting functional areas. These are mobility; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; joint headquarters capability; C4 [command, control, communications and computers]; logistics and sustainment; special operations; infrastructure; and joint personnel.

The JMRR also requires the services and CinCs to assess current and near-term readiness to execute the two major regional contingency scenario from their respective unique viewpoints. It is an evolving process, but to date the benefits derived are considerable. We focus the senior leadership on the pressing, immediate readiness issues, and together we determine where to place additional emphasis and resources.

The service chiefs and I brief the JMRR to the department senior leadership in the Senior Readiness Oversight Council, co-chaired by the deputy secretary of defense and myself.

We are addressing the readiness and capabilities of our future force through the Joint War-fighting Capability Assessments, which we call JWCA. Just as the JMRR fills the need for a recurring analysis of current readiness and near-term readiness projection, the JWCA, under the purview of the expanded Joint Requirements Oversight Council, or JROC, includes a systematic analysis of the readiness of future forces. That is, we try to assure that as we recapitalize and build the forces that the nation will rely upon in the future, our future forces will maintain the capability to win.

The JROC, with membership of the vice chiefs of each service and myself, performs mission need review, validation and prioritization of requirements, and determines the best placement of our scarce dollars and resources. Established by Goldwater-Nichols [DoD Reorganization Act of 1986] in the mid-1980s, the JROC is now designed to provide a senior military perspective on what the nation requires for national defense and, in particular, to judge whether various major weapons, weapons systems, and other military capabilities are actually required.

To make these kinds of judgments the JROC considers underlying elements of future U.S. military functions and needs that are the foundation for talking sensibly about military requirements. Since being appointed to my present position a little over a year ago, I, the vice chiefs of the military services and the Joint Staff have spent a considerable amount of time reviewing our joint war-fighting capabilities within the JROC. We have engaged the unified commanders in our discussions as well as the chairman and other members of the joint chiefs. The JROC, in short, has become one of the real centers of thought, discussion, planning and debate with regard to what requirements for our nation's military forces ought to be in the foreseeable future and how we can assure our forces remain ready to meet the demands of future contingencies.

The key to maintaining current readiness and ensuring our future readiness to fight is first to make sure that we recruit and retain the best people. To do this requires our continued commitment to adequate pay, medical and retirement benefits. This must remain our No. 1 priority.

Future readiness also depends on sustaining a satisfactory level of major equipment and facility maintenance. Our facility maintenance accounts have been consistently underfunded over the past few years, and a backlog has grown. Military installations are key enablers for power projection. As the backlog increases facilities deteriorate and the cost of repair increases. This deterioration increases the risk of unacceptable mission interruption and jeopardizes future readiness.

Lastly, but certainly a most critical element of future readiness, is funding for recapitalization, modernization and force enhancements.

The core philosophy that guided the Bottom-up Review was to balance our strategic requirements against a shrinking force. The BUR force levels that we are moving toward are predicated upon force enhancements to compensate for reductions in numbers of units. More strategic lift; more long-range precision and smart munitions; more pre-positioned sets in selected forward locations; improved and expanded command and control, communications, computers and intelligence. These enhancements have to be fielded.

Making our forces more deployable, and more lethal and capable once they arrive, allow[s] our reduced force levels. To accept the force decreases that are already in progress and will be completed by 1997 without procuring the enhancements upon which the force reductions are based place[s] our forces at unacceptably high risk at the turn of the century. We cannot afford a tendency to push modernization programs down the road year after year through a process of new delays, stretch-outs and schedule changes.

To summarize the readiness assessment process, then, readiness consists of unit readiness, which is assessed and reported by the services, and joint readiness, which is reported by the CinCs and is collated and reported by the Joint Staff.

The critical Joint Monthly Readiness Review and Senior Readiness Oversight Council are our vehicles for the current and near-term readiness assessments, and the Joint Requirements Oversight Council and Joint War-fighting Capabilities Assessments provide for our future capability (readiness) needs.

These assessments are reviewed by our four-star senior leaders, who proactively work to ensure that deficiencies discovered in near-term readiness or long-term capability gaps are pursued until adequately addressed and a solution is properly applied.

We have sufficient systems for tracking and reporting readiness status and for raising readiness issues and problems to the highest levels for resolution.

What these extensive and focused periodic reviews indicate to us today is that the readiness of our forces that would be first in the pitch of battle continues to be high and that the near-term readiness of all of our forces is near historic levels. Our people are our greatest asset, and our continued support for them is paramount in ensuring our continued readiness.

For our long-term vision we are likewise ensuring that the dollars and effort we expend for new systems will not build a hollow force, but rather that our future fighting force will remain ready.


Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission.